Bishop T. of East Layton, Utah is one of the bishops who shamed me. He was more instrumental in my exit from the church then anyone else was. He used shame as a weapon.
I was 21 years old and inactive and I did something that “church” deems as wrong and somebody told on me (yes, lots of tattle-tales within Mormonism – lots of reporting on each other) and the bishop called and demanded that I come in. He was hostile with me from the get go.
I went in to meet with him and he proceeded to shame me and interrogate me. He treated me like a criminal. He said they needed to hold a “court of love” for me which surprised me since I had never been through the temple for endowments (promises to the church) and he had already made me feel like there was no hope for me to ever be a decent human being, ever again. You see, Mormons teach that sex outside of marriage is next to murder, so he treated me as such.
Over the years I had known dozens of people who had committed sins and some of the same nature as I had. I even knew missionaries who had sex with their girlfriends before they left and almost everyone I knew was having oral sex in their teen years if not PIV sex. I knew several men (in my family) who were perverts and were Peeping Toms and sexual assaulter’s who preyed on family and children. None of them were hauled in or called a liar or even shamed.
For the “court of love” that bishop decided that he hadn’t shamed me enough yet so as I walked out of Sacrament Meeting the next Sunday, he was waiting for me right outside of the door. Right in front of my family, my friends, my neighbors he made a huge show of handing me an envelope and loudly stating that it was a letter demanding that I appear for a Bishops Court aka court of love. Now, they do say that everything is confidential but I’ve not known any bishop or many Mormons for that matter, who wasn’t a huge gossip who thought shaming was a good idea. Another level of trust was just shattered.
I also had started to really think about the behaviors within the church and what kind of person I wanted to be and what kind of “morality” I wanted to have. I had my own opinion. I really thought about what morality is or isn’t and what laws are about – you know, to protect us from hurting each other.
So, I showed up for that Bishops Court aka Court of Love and in the room was Bishop T. and 3 other men. I knew all of the men there. I had baby sat one’s children, was friends with one of their daughters, lived a few doors away from the other and had had him teach one of my Sunday School classes as a teenager.
I already felt humiliated and unsafe. I had already been so beat up verbally and emotionally and spiritually and I felt tender inside and unsure of what I had been taught my entire life. The inconsistencies between what they teach/sell and what they live are huge and to this day, I cannot reconcile them.
Behind those doors, with those 4 men, I was asked most of those 29 indecent questions that Sam Young has listed among other questions. To say that I was shocked and outraged is an understatement. Talking about it now, more than 30 years later makes my stomach feel sick and I have a feeling of dread. I remember how humiliating it was. I remember one of the men looking super embarrassed and uncomfortable. The bishop continued and was cruel and invasive. One of the other men seemed like he was zoned out and not listening but the fourth man seemed too interested.
I never looked at any of those men the same again after that – not ever. I feel disgust for all of them. They were all adult, grown men and we were all uncomfortable and there is just no excuse for any of what they did. None. Decent people don’t talk like that. Decent people don’t abuse people, especially at church.
I now know that I was abused sexually, spiritually, emotionally and verbally and that those men impacted my life in ways that none of us could imagine. To shame someone to that extent is horrifying. Nothing about that was done out of love. None of it was done FOR me or to help me. They disfellowshipped me. This is when I learned the term “Bishop Roulette” because there is no consistency on who is punished for what. Even the guidelines in the Bishops Handbook are messed up with their priorities; in fact, they promote Rape Culture just like some of the 29 questions do.
I never wanted to go back. The panic I had felt during that meeting is something I can’t even describe but my entire well-being as a human was threatened and harm was done.
I was supposed to go back in for follow-ups and I didn’t have any interest. I still babysat for a neighbor who had disabled children (I had mostly stopped babysitting years earlier) and I knew how to take care of them and really liked the family, so even with a good full-time job I was happy to spend the weekend to give the parents respite. That bishop even had to ruin that relationship since he decided shame was his favorite weapon and he called them and told them to tell me that I better call him back. So, they had no choice but to relay the message to me when I showed up to watch their children. I was never asked to babysit again after that. I bet it was hard for them to find another sitter for their child with epilepsy but I was obviously unworthy to care for their children.
One question that I still have is WHY ME? Why was I treated like that? I know people who have done so much worse and they must lie to their bishops because nothing ever happens to them and they go to the temple, etc. It blows my mind. I feel anger still and unfairness always stings.
I happen to know that that Bishops son cheated on his wife a few years later. Bishop T. then watched his son go through some of what he had put ME through and felt enough remorse that he apologized to my parents for how he treated me. Not once did he attempt to apologize not me – not even by hand-delivered letter or via an employer.
The entire thing is when I decided the church wasn’t true. I did go back a few years later and looking back now, I know it was an attempt to please my family and to try to fit in again since not only had the bishop shamed me but then everyone else also decided to be abusive towards me. Shunning has many faces and many stages.
My friend, Bishop Sam Young is on a Hunger Strike to get the Mormon (LDS) church to stop doing damage through these worthiness interviews through Protect LDS Children and he is the first Bishop that apologized to me- ever. It means the WORLD to me and I feel emotions that I haven’t ever felt before.
I am worthy. I always have been. The shame belongs on those who tried to take away my worthiness.
Thank you Sam, and the other Bishops who are gathering to do an en mass apology on behalf of all Bishops tomorrow. It does mean a lot! It means everything! If you want to hear from these Bishops also then listen in to or attend tomorrows event at noon in SLC. Let the healing begin. Finally.